*Disclaimer: I was given gold membership and received compensation to review the website www.childcare.co.uk. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the company in any way.
Childcare logistics, I’m familiar with them. I recently left my much-loved job to try and navigate a more flexible life around my two daughters’ school and nursery pick-ups, plus a school holiday Vs annual leave deficit of about five weeks.
Going freelance and working more flexibly from home means life is marginally less fraught than it was when I was working in an office in the middle of the city – I can pick and choose the hours that suit me, which is brilliant. But, like most people with school age children to collect, once that 3.15pm bell goes, that’s pretty much the end of the working day. Yes, I regularly whack on the TV and plonk my eldest down in front of it to squeeze in a bit more work, but once the toddler comes home there’s not a chance in hell I’m going to be productive.
Come September, pre-school hours mean after 1pm I’m back in charge of an ‘energetic’ (read bat shit crazy) three year old, short on working time and in need of a childminder so I can tick off some working hours. But where to start?! I’ve used a nursery before, but seeking out a childminder in Bristol is unknown territory for me.
After explaining my struggles, a friend recommended Childcare.co.uk to me having used them to find someone to look after her kiddo in Oxfordshire, and when I was approached by the company themselves to review the site, I thought it would be a great opportunity to really test it out, for myself.
What is childcare.co.uk?
Childcare.co.uk is an award-winning online social networking platform to help parents find local childcare providers. Parents, childcare providers and tutors can create a free profile advertising their requirements or services, which are then published on the website and mobile apps. It currently has over two million members.
The childcare.co.uk website is super easy to use. Once you’ve registered you can really get down to the serious business of finding a trustworthy childcare source. First, select your provider of choice from a drop-down menu – anything from babysitter, nannies, doula, private midwife, private tutors, to – in my case – a childminder. Next, you can select how close you would like the chosen childcare to be from a particular postcode. I was after a childminder and wanted someone as close as possible to my house given I work from home and my daughter’s school is within close walking distance. You can then filter the results according to the various qualifications or specialisations you’d like them to have, for example, childminders with special needs experience, ofsted registered, creches, holiday clubs and the list goes on.
Once you receive your list of matching results, you have the option to message the childcare providers directly. If you’re on the standard free membership, you can read and reply to messages that have been sent to you from gold members. Free members can also send messages to gold members and view their direct contact details, however if you’re contacting lots of people, you might need to look at investing in the gold membership (you get other benefits for this including a free Kids Pass, Tastecard+ membership etc).
How to find a childminder from the list
The search brought back a list of 17 childminders within one mile of my house, a good number as it means there is a fair amount of options, but not too many to feel overwhelmed. For me, it was important that the carer had uploaded a profile picture, so I could imagine who I was talking to. I also felt reassured when they had uploaded documents proving their qualifications (DBS checks etc) – although this did not seem to be a routine thing and many were without, but with a caveat from the website reminding visitors to check original documents before hiring. Their availability is handily displayed in a table, so you can see at a glance whether they’re going to be free at the times you need them and you can check out their hourly rate.
You’ll also be able to read what they’ve written about themselves, how they see their childcare environment, find out what age children they have experience with, plus numerous other details to help you make a decision. And, perhaps, most importantly, you can read the reviews of people whose children the childminders have looked after.
What else is useful?
The site is full of easily-digestible information and lots of helpful, but simply displayed advice on how to go about choosing someone to look after your child. This includes ‘nanny interview questions’, choosing a nursery checklists and ‘childminder or nanny’ articles. There’s also an app for your phone, so you can have all the details with you on the go.
Final thoughts on Childcare.co.uk
Choosing someone or somewhere to look after your offspring can be an extremely daunting and emotional task. The website’s Trust Pilot score (rated excellent with 1694 reviews), awards, thorough information, reviews and online supporting official documents, all help make the site a very reassuring and comprehensive resource for helping parents make such an important decision. I’m still searching for a childminder – so many are already fully booked – but it’s given me piece of mind to know that I have this means of searching for the best person to look after my little one.